Spectators were left in a state of shock after seeing a competitor crash out of the Kremetart 175km One-Day Stage Race in a horrific manner in the closing stages of the race.

Herby Lees, a cyclist from Pretoria, was competing in the mixed-tandem category of the race with his cycling partner, Joey de Jager. Together they completed the first two stages of the race. The first mishap occurred when Herby and Joey were about 20km into the third stage on their way to the Schoemansdal finish line.

Joey was not feeling well and complaining of heart palpitations. She had to withdraw from the race and was transported by ambulance to the Zoutpansberg Private Hospital for treatment. Herby decided to continue with the race, finishing the stage alone on the tandem.

At Schoemansdal, Herby was unable to find a replacement for Joey and made the unfortunate decision to continue racing the final stage alone.

The exact reason that caused Herby to lose control over his tandem bike is still unclear. He was steering left, just outside the neutral zone from the Schoemansdal entrance road, into the Vivo road, when he crashed into a stationary vehicle and trailer parked next to the road. It is estimated that he was doing about 60km/h at the time. The vehicle was an official race-support vehicle that was parked about 300m from the turn-off (facing towards Louis Trichardt) on the right-hand side of the road.

Herby was among the last of the tandems to turn into the road, and he stood up out of the saddle to power up, when he lost control over his bike. The bike veered across the road and smashed into the trailer.

Herby hit the trailer with such force that a piece of angle iron on the back of the trailer almost cut off his right arm completely beneath the shoulder. Apart from his badly cut and broken arm, Herby’s also sustained several fractured ribs, which punctured his lungs, and a deep laceration on his right knee.

The rest had of the cyclists to be stopped at that stage to allow medical personnel to stabilize the critically injured Herby and transport him to hospital. There he landed in the emergency room next to Joey. From there, Herby was airlifted to Polokwane, where his knee was sewn back together and the fluids drained from his lungs. He was then airlifted to the Union Hospital in Alberton, where he is closer to home.

Thankfully, earlier speculation that Herby would probably lose his arm, proved to be wrong.

Herby’s girlfriend, Madelein Hoffman, spoke to the Zoutpansberger on Tuesday and confirmed that doctors will be able to save his arm. She said that Herby had undergone an operation late on Monday afternoon to bring his arm back in line and attach the fractured bones with the necessary screws. At that stage, Herby was kept heavily sedated and by Wednesday was still receiving treatment in the intensive care unit.

Madelein told the newspaper that Herby had been cycling for about four years, and that this was his first major fall. Herby was able to ask about his bicycle and was surprised to learn that only the fork had broken.

Madelein said on Wednesday morning that he was still in the ICU and would probably remain there for a few more days. He was still in lots of pain but able to give family and friends a few smiles.

“Despite it all, we’ll compete in the Kremetart again … probably not next year … but it will all depend on Herby’s recuperation,” said Madelein.